Happy Trails

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

An editor once referred to magazine photo trips as manufactured journeys that feature collections of surfers who aren't even friends.

He was right.

But he said it like it was a bad thing.

The modern surf media trip hasn't evolved much since Robert August and Mike Hynson circled the globe in The Endless Summer, and for good reason. Taking great surfers to great waves and putting them in unfamiliar surroundings tends to be something that other surfers want to look at.

But there's another compelling factor to these photographer/editor/sponsor-led journeys: Chemistry. If you put talented surfers together who might not socialize otherwise, the results can be…interesting. Taking surfers away from their comfort zones, from their local bubbles, from their posses and suddenly bunking them with their lifetime NSSA nemesis has a tendency to make things riveting. To make sparks fly.

But usually in a good way.

On trips like this, away from jerseys and points and "man-on-man," the guard can come down. The edge can come off. Suddenly strangers and archenemies can discover how much they have in common. How much they love the ocean. How much they love to surf.

And sometimes, usually after a day of uncrowded waves and a few dozen beers, something truly transformational can happen: Lifetime bonds are made on the spot and a photo trip can become like the best day ever at summer camp. Ego and insecurity is stripped clean, and stories and laughter fill the atmosphere like sparks from a fire.

Photo: Gilley

Post-surf, cerveza-and-guac revelry for Yadin Nicol, Dusty Payne, and Mitch Coleburn.

Photo: Gilley

Tom Curren demonstrates the subtleties of “Pop Goes the Weasel” humor to Frankie Oberholzer in South Africa.

Photo: Gilley

On the way to Todos Santos, Derek Hynd's dark humor finds an enthusiastic recipient in Kelly Slater.

Photo: Gilley

Mexican happy hour for Shane Dorian, Dan Malloy, Kai Neville, Chris Del Moro, Evan Slater, and Dane Reynolds.